• Kristina Vorgod
4. semester, Socialt Arbejde, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
The thesis examines the goals behind the Danish sickness benefits (‘sygedagpenge’) regime. The regime is characterized by process regulation and control, and various actors are being controlled and managed from different agencies on central, regional and local level. This indicates a diversity of purposes behind the stated goals of the policy area. The field seems to be undergoing what George Ritzer has described as McDonaldization (2011), where specialization and automation of work processes are being introduced in order to increase effectiveness. Social work is thus becoming more and more specialized and standardized, leading to decreased autonomy and discretion for the individual case worker and a concomitant difficulty in addressing clients with multiple and complex problems.
The purpose of this thesis is to examine which strategies and management technologies that are being used to implement the goals of the sickness benefits department of a Danish municipality. It aims to trace both the process of translating abstract general goals into operative goals which can be acted upon – and the resulting difficult process of prioritization that faces social workers as they try to juggle various goals with limited time. The empirical examination consists in six qualitative research interviews with case workers and managers in the sickness benefits area. This is supplemented by qualitative analysis of various documents. The study has been conducted in cooperation with the sickness benefits department of a Danish municipality. The data has been analyzed with Kjell Arne Røviks Translations theory (2007), Peter Smiths typology of Eight unintended consequences of publishing performance data in the public sector (1995) and Michael Lipskys theory on Street-level bureaucracy – Dilemmas of the individual in public services (2010).
The results indicate that management uses different translation strategies in their interpretation and translation of the goals. The managers closest to the case workers tend to use strategies which adapt the goals to local concerns, whereas the higher level managers reproduce the goals more faithfully.
The department is influenced by management technologies, including advanced information and cockpit management. The management receives detailed information on the work of the case workers, including information on their performance in returning their clients to employment. The management seems to use this performance data to implement the goals of the department. In some cases this leads to unintended consequences, where the overly rigid focus on measureable goals deemphasizes everything else. This has potential adverse consequences for the department’s goal attainment. However, when the measureable goals adequately cover the real aims of the department, performance management technologies can actually further goal attainment. The adequate definition and measurement of goals are therefore important. The analysis also shows that case workers use different coping-mechanism to deal with a time constrained work life. The case workers’ use of coping-mechanisms have an impact on the prioritization of different goals and therefore on the implementations of the goals of the department.

Keywords: Social work, sickness benefits, goals, specialization, standardization, McDonaldization, management technologies, organizational theory, cockpit management, performance measurement, unintended consequences, coping-mechanisms
Udgivelsesdato8 aug. 2014
Antal sider128
Udgivende institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 202028047